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A record number of DDoS attacks took place in 2020

(Image credit: Image Credit: Profit_Image / Shutterstock)

In 2020, for the first time ever, more than 10 million Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS (opens in new tab)) attacks were recorded in a single year.

This is according to a new report from cybersecurity firm Netscout, whose ATLAS Security Engineering and Response Team (ASERT) observed a total of 10,089,687 attacks last year. Compared to 8.5 million attacks in 2019, that’s a 17 percent rise year-on-year.

Although Netscout believes the number of yearly DDoS attacks may yet grow further, it attributed last year's spike to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“While most of the world saw an unprecedented global health crisis, malicious actors saw new vulnerabilities and opportunity,” said the firm. “It is seldom that annual activity is so deeply affected by one event, but such is the case with 2020 DDoS attack activity and trends.”

In terms of individual metrics (attack count, bandwidth and throughput), each has spiked since the pandemic began.

Attack frequency rose 20 percent year-on-year, including the pre-pandemic months of January, February and March. From March onwards, monthly DDoS attacks (opens in new tab) regularly exceeded 800,000, with May being the most devastating month, with 929,000 DDoS attacks.

Wired and wireless broadband providers saw the brunt of the attacks, Netscout confirmed, but “pandemic lifeline industries” such as ecommerce, online learning, and healthcare all experienced increased attention from malicious actors.

With the end to the pandemic still nowhere in sight, the company expects these threats to continue rising in 2021. Criminals will target exposed weaknesses and seek out new attack vectors.

“Indeed, these numbers only scratch the surface, and we expect to unearth new details as we conduct further research for the next NETSCOUT Threat Intelligence Report,” said Netscout.

“It is imperative that defenders and security professionals remain vigilant to protect the critical infrastructure that connects and enables the modern world.”

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.